Tag: Dwayne Wade

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder – Game Two

NBA Finals: Heat’s Big 3 get back to basics, even up the series


For the sake of argument, forget about the Durant no-call for a second. Simply put, the Heat won Game 2 of the NBA Finals because all 3 of their best players went back to doing what they do best: playing off of each other, playing with energy, and, most importantly, playing near the rim.

Before Game 2, Erik Spoelstra noted that the Heat took more jumpers and less free throws in Game 1 than they had in the entire rest of the playoffs, and his players got the message, especially the ones that got the team to the NBA Finals. James, Wade, and Bosh scored 72 points in game 2. Guess how many of those points came on 3-point shots? Zero. Guess how many of those points came on shots outside of 15 feet? Just 10. (Bosh and James had one made jumper apiece, while Wade, the worst jump-shooter of the bunch, was able to get 3 outside shots to go.)

LeBron James set his NBA Finals career high for the 2nd straight game because he was determined to get inside — by using his shiny new post game in the first half and his tried-and-true ability to get to the rim from 30 feet away in the 2nd half, LeBron made 9 baskets from inside the paint and shot 12 free throws, all of which he made. And while James’ passing wasn’t as deadly  as it has been in other games, he had some huge plays that weren’t scores in the fourth quarter, notably a bullet pass from the free throw line to Chris Bosh for a wide-open dunk and a beautiful screen that allowed Wade to set up Bosh with another wide-open dunk.

The scary thing about James, and one that he hasn’t realized in Finals past, is that he doesn’t need to be hot like he was in Game 6 of the Miami series to be the best player on the floor — he just needs to use his unprecedented blend of size, strength, speed, and skill to give himself good looks. When LeBron’s hitting jumpers, we all know he’s unstoppable, but things don’t get much easier for the defense when he decides to essentially abandon the jumper entirely and bring each one of his “250” (scouts agree that his actual weight is at least 260, and possibly around 274) pounds to the basket.

James going off wasn’t much of a surprise — after all, 30-point nights have been the norm for him lately. It was Wade and Bosh who really rounded back into form on Thursday night, and each of their contributions were invaluable to the Heat.

Wade finished #3 in PER over the course of the regular season, but it’s been a long time since he looked like himself on the court, and it was an open question whether the 30-year old Wade’s knees were wearing down after a compressed schedule and two straight ultra-long playoff runs.

Right from the opening tip of Game 2, Wade was out to prove that rumors of his knees’ demise were greatly exaggerated. Wade had two assists, two dunks, and one trip to the free throw line in the first quarter alone, and was zig-zagging through the defense, going hard to the rim, hitting the deck all over the place, and generally putting pressure on the Thunder’s defense at every opportunity. Wade still settled for a few too many of the mid-range jumpers that have been costing the Heat points for the last few weeks, but he actually managed to make an acceptable 3 of the 8 outside jumpers that he took in Game 2. Wade nearly cost the Heat the game with a horrible turnover in the waning moments of the fourth, but the Heat should still be encouraged by the fact that the 2006 Finals MVP looked like himself again on Thursday night.

Finally, Chris Bosh made his long-awaited return to the starting lineup in Game 2, and it sure looks like he belongs there. Bosh didn’t play a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but he gave the Heat a dimension they’ve been lacking. Bosh missed some easy shots inside and let a few passes bounce off of his hands in the paint, but he attacked Oklahoma City’s defense  off the dribble, gave Wade and LeBron someone to pass the ball to inside, and was an absolute monster on the glass, as he finished with 15 rebounds, with 7 of them coming on the offensive glass.

None of the Big 3 played a perfect, or even a great, game, and without Shane Battier’s 5 3-pointers (one of which was banked in), or a few calls going Miami’s way, the team would be going home in an 0-2 hole. But for now, they’ve got a tie series because the three players who were supposed to win Miami all those rings got to doing what they do best on the game’s biggest stage.

NBA Playoffs: Heat flaws show up big, Pacers exploit them to even series

Heat Pacers Game 2

Miami fans, the time to panic may be now.

Indiana certainly didn’t dominate Miami in their ugly 78-75 Game 2 win, but they did make the Heat look like a team that may be fatally flawed without the third member of their “Big 3” in the lineup. The Heat had plenty of chances to win this game, but ended up giving home-court advantage to a team that nobody was predicting to win the series. Also, Miami simply didn’t look like a championship-caliber basketball team on Tuesday, which may be an even worse sign for them.

Miami was never able to get it going offensively, but they hid that in the first half by playing some absolutely suffocating defense on the Pacers, holding them to just 33 points in the 1st half and seemingly having an extra man on the court defensively.

In the 3rd quarter, however, Miami took their foot off the gas pedal defensively, Indiana was able to get a 28-point quarter, and Miami was unable to recover. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did their best, combining for 21 of Miami’s 23 fourth-quarter points, but LeBron missed 2 key free throws with 54 seconds remaining, and Wade missed a contested layup that would have tied the game for the Heat with 16 seconds remaining.

The Pacers missed a ton of free throws on their own to allow the Heat to stay in the game, but they were able to hold on after Mario Chalmers missed a game-tying 3 as time expired.

The story tomorrow will likely be about Wade’s missed layup and LeBron’s missed free throws (the latter more than the former), but the truth is that Miami’s offensive problems go much deeper than their ability to make shots down the stretch, especially with Bosh out of the lineup. Chalmers and Mike Miller played like they were shaving points. James Jones missed all 3 of his 3-point attempts. The team shot 1-16 from deep. Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, and Ronny Turiaf combined for 7  points, and Erik Spoelstra seems to have lost faith in Haslem, the team captain, who only played 12 minutes.

No single Pacer had a great game, but that’s the beauty of this Pacer team — they don’t need big performances. They got what they needed when they needed it — a Leandro Barbosa floater here, a Danny Granger jump shot there, a David West post move on occasion, all the way down the line, and it was all they needed to beat the Heat on a night where Miami simply couldn’t get anything done offensively.

It’s simple for the Heat now — if they don’t win at least one game in Indiana, they’re going to go home early and have no rings to show for 2 years of having their “big three.” After Derrick Rose got injured, a lot of people expected Miami to have a fairly easy road to the finals, but the frontrunners should be feeling serious pressure right now.

NBA Playoffs: Can the Heat go up 2-0 without Bosh?

Chris Bosh injured

The Miami Heat managed to win Game 1 of their series with the Indiana Pacers thanks to an absolutely incredible half from both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, but don’t be fooled: Bosh’s injury changes the entire dynamic of the series. If James and Wade can play like they did in the 2nd half of Game 1 throughout the series, the Heat will probably win, because they’re just that good and the Pacers are somewhat lacking in star power. However, if James and Wade aren’t absolutely locked in for the majority of Game 2, here’s what Miami will need to do to hold serve at home:

— Get some floor spacing. Miami won Game 1 in spite of the fact that they went 0-6 from beyond the arc. That’s not going to work for the rest of the series. Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers’ primary value to the Heat on offense is their ability to stretch the floor, and Erik Spoelstra should think about giving James Jones some minutes if his trio of shooters continue to have trouble finding the rim.

— Swarm defensively. This is something the Heat did extremely well in Game 1, and have done quite well all season. LeBron James, who finished 4th in Defensive Player of the Year voting this season, typically takes his defense to another level in the playoffs, and he held Danny Granger to 1-10 shooting from the field while snagging 2 steals and a block in Game 1. The Heat will need to make up for their lack of size on Roy Hibbert and David West by using their ability to cover ground defensively to make the Pacers uncomfortable on offense and keep Hibbert or West from getting 1-on-1 matchups on the block.

— Get contributions from the Haslem/Anthony/Turiaf trio. Haslem played terribly in Game 1, but fortunately for the Heat, Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf saved the day by providing great work on the glass, good energy on defense, and some nice dunks when the Pacers collapsed on LeBron and left a passing lane open. Anthony scored 9 points on 4-4 shooting from the field, which is 4 points shy of his career high. It’s unlikely that Anthony will play that well again offensively, and Turiaf isn’t a known commodity, so Haslem will have to step up, make his jumpers, crash the glass, and do his best to keep Roy Hibbert away from the rim on both sides of the floor.

On Indiana’s side of things, the game-plan is clear — they want to use their size and depth advantage to wear down the Heat, keep them scrambling defensively, and steal a game on the road to tie up the series. If they make their shots, hang onto the ball, and work the ball inside without forcing anything, they’re certainly capable of doing it, especially if they manage to contain James and Wade.

NBA Playoffs: Heat win Game 1, but Bosh injured

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game One

After the 1st half of Game 1 of the Pacers-Heat series, things did not look good for the defending conference champions. Miami couldn’t get anything going offensively, Roy Hibbert was beating them up inside, and Indiana was moving the ball crisply to get good looks. Miami was able to keep the game close thanks to Indiana’s foul problems, but the Heat were clearly getting outplayed.

To make matters even worse, Chris Bosh, who had the best 1st half of any of the big 3, was forced to leave the game after he strained his abdominal while dunking and getting fouled.

The only way for the Heat to turn things around in the second half was to have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh’s replacements step up, and that’s exactly what happened. James remembered that he’s a 3-time MVP in the second quarter, and started absolutely destroying the Pacers with tough drives to the hoop, pinpoint passes, some midrange jumpers, absolutely great work on the glass, and flat-out suffocating defense on Danny Granger, who finished the game with 7 points on 1-10 shooting from the field.

Wade was relentless as well — his shot wasn’t really falling for him on Sunday, and he didn’t grab a single rebound, but he went to the line seven times and made 13 of his 14 free throws, which helped the Heat get in the bonus while keeping the Pacers in foul trouble for the vast majority of the game.

What may have been even more important for the Heat was the play of Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf, who have both spent considerable portions of this season out of the rotation entirely. With Bosh injured and Udonis Haslem completely ineffective, Miami’s high-energy bigs stepped up and saved the game for Miami. Even though Indiana came into the game with a significant size advantage, Miami outscored the Pacers 52-40 in the painted area on Sunday, and somehow grabbed 15 offensive rebounds while Indiana managed to grab only 30 defensive boards. On top of that, Turiaf and Anthony actually managed to make an impact offensively, finding seams in the basket and catching and dunking when the opportunities were there.

This is going to be a tough one for Indiana to take — they led for much of the way, and had a tie game coming into the fourth quarter, but missed a rare opportunity to steal a game on the road from a team as good as the Heat.

On Miami’s side of things, they have to be hoping that Chris Bosh can get back to 100% as soon as possible. LeBron and Wade going into overdrive in the 2nd half and Turiaf and Anthony having great games saved the Heat in Game 1, but the Heat will need Bosh going forward, especially if their secondary perimeter players continue to do as badly as they did on Sunday. The Heat should be happy with this win, but they should also be very nervous about the health of the 3rd member of their all-important “big three.”

Dwyane Wade is historically good at shot-blocking

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade listens to the national anthem before their NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Miami

The Heat Index’s Tom Haberstroh has a great article up today on how Dwyane Wade’s unprecedented shot-blocking (Wade is the only guard to average at least a block per game over the course of his career) impacts Miami’s defense. Because Wade can block just about anybody’s shot, including a 7-footer’s, the Heat are able to defend the rim extremely well despite not having much size of their own up front:

Wade rarely shies away from shot-blocking opportunities, and that’s partly by design. In the Heat’s mechanical defense, which was orchestrated by Pat Riley and sharpened by Spoelstra, Wade must make his presence felt underneath the rim. The Heat’s defensive blueprint requires guards to act like big men underneath and wall off penetration.

It’s something that newcomers in the Heat system have to get used to. Even a player like Shane Battier, who has studied defensive principles his entire career, needed time to adjust to Wade’s shot-blocking talents.

“Earlier in the season,” Spoelstra remembers, “Shane Battier was in a situation where Dwyane Wade was a low man and the big man caught it right at the rim and Shane went to foul. We told Shane, ‘No, that’s not a fouling situation. Let Dwyane go up there and be a playmaker. That’s not a given even against a center.'”

I encourage you to read the full article, which is quite fantastic. Wade’s next chance to get some highlight-reel blocks will come in the Heat’s second-round series against the Pacers, which begins on Sunday.